Last week wrapped up a historic session for Colorado’s General Assembly. Legislators moved quickly to respond to the evolving economic and public health challenges in our state, while shifting the focus from relief to recovery to reimagining a better future for all.  The work of our lawmakers isn’t over yet, as American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds will continue to be allocated within the state, as well as at local municipalities and counties.

It is important to take a moment to reflect on what was accomplished and show appreciation.

Below is a summary of the bills passed this session that directly benefit our arts, culture and creative industries, which CBCA tracked and advocated for along with numerous cultural partners and business leaders.

Join us in thanking the Bill Sponsors and arts supporters who made it happen! We encourage you to find your legislator and let them know you care about the arts, especially if they were on the Bill Sponsors below. Join us on June 30 to make creative Thank You notes for our legislators.

HB21-1285, Funding To Support Creative Arts Industries

Bill Sponsors: Representatives Leslie Herod and Adrienne Benavidez, and Senators Sonya Jaquez Lewis and Janet Buckner

Provides critical funding for artists, cultural organizations, performance venues and others in the creative industries in response to the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes:

  • $6M for the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media’s Film Incentive program.
    • This fund is pivotal to attracting TV and film production to Colorado, like the new NBC pilot to be filmed in Durango and Denver.
  • $15.5M for the Colorado Arts Relief program
    • These arts relief funds are in addition to the $7.5M allocated through 20B-001 (passed in December 2020) and distributed in early 2021 to individual artists, cultural nonprofits and for-profit creative entities negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • While the bill stipulates $3.5M directly for this arts relief fund, another $12M is estimated to be added to this fund due to other small business relief funds that may be unencumbered as of June 30, 2021.
  • $1.5M to certain cultural facilities that focus on programming for and have representation from defined historically marginalized and under-resourced communities
    • These are otherwise known as Community ACTS grantees in the seven-county Denver metro area.

Thank you to the 64 arts leaders who signed on to our letter of support for HB21-1285.

SB21-252, Community Revitalization Grant Program

Bill Sponsors are Senators Stephen Fenberg and Chris Holbert, and Representatives Brianna Titone and Susan Lontine

Provides gap funding for creative construction projects across the state that are aimed at creating or revitalizing mixed-use commercial centers. Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) will manage this $65M grant program

Thank you to the 93 arts leaders who signed on to our letter of support for SB21-252.

Follow Colorado Creative Industries (CCI), our state arts agency, to learn more about upcoming applications, guidelines, and decision processes for these funding programs. CCI also received an additional $808k through their partnership agreement with the National Endowment for Arts to be regranted to arts nonprofits across Colorado. Thank you to CCI and your partners for working fast to get this much-needed support to Colorado’s artists, cultural organizations and creative businesses.

Numerous other bills were passed this session that impact Colorado’s economic recovery and prosperity, including those outlined in the Governor’s $700M state stimulus plan. Over $220M was allocated to our Office of Economic Development to power the economy. Many of these opportunities can have a direct or indirect impact on the arts and creative economy, including small businesses and rural communities. Some of those are summarized here.

  • HB21-1241, Employee-owned Business Loan Program Modifications
    • Extends the Employee Ownership Revolving Loan Program, which provides financial assistance to existing businesses seeking to convert to employee-owned. The proposal also includes key modifications to eligibility and loan usage to ensure more businesses and their employees can meaningfully benefit from the program. No fiscal impact (already allocated through federal dollars).
  • SB21-229, Rural Jump-start Zone Grant Program
    • Provides cash benefits (in addition to existing tax relief benefits) for businesses participating in the Rural Jump-Start program (RJS). RJS is an existing, performance-based tax exemption program for new businesses, as well as the employees of those businesses, that choose to locate in economically distressed rural areas of Colorado.
    • $3M in funding for Rural Jump-Start Grant program
  • SB21-241, Small Business Accelerated Growth Program
    • Provides a full spectrum of business development technical assistance to businesses with 19 or fewer employees. Businesses demonstrating success and need under the program will then be eligible for funding under the Colorado Startup Loan Fund.
    • $1.65M for technical assistance and $1.35M for Startup/access to capital
  • HB21-1263, Meeting And Events Incentive Program
    • Provides a small rebate to cover a portion of the hard costs of hosting an event in Colorado, thereby incentivizing planners to book in Colorado, bolstering the tourism economy and industry, and supporting thousands of small businesses across the State.
    • $10M in funding for this Event Incentive Program
  • HB21-1288, Colorado Startup Loan Program
    • Provides lending capital and some small grants to businesses seeking capital to start, restart, or restructure a business. Mission-driven community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and other nonprofit lenders will distribute these funds to businesses and entrepreneurs.
    • $30M in funding from the state’s General Fund (plus $1.35M from SB21-241); $10M from ARPA
  • SB21-291, Economic Recovery And Relief Cash Fund
    • Transfers $40 million from ARPA to the Colorado Economic Development Fund within OEDIT for the purpose of providing grants to businesses and for investing in economic development opportunities in response to the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic
    • $10 million of this fund will be for the Location Neutral Employment program and other incentives for small businesses to locate in rural Colorado.
  • HB21-1318, Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program
    • The purpose of the outdoor equity grant program is to increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks, public lands, and other outdoor areas.
    • The grant program is funded through a redistribution of lottery money.
  • HB21-1065, Veteran Hiring Preference 
    • Allows a private employer to give preference to a veteran of the armed forces or the National Guard and the spouse of a disabled veteran or a service member killed in the line of duty when hiring a new employee, as long as the veteran or the spouse is as qualified as other applicants for employment.
    • Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media will receive $25k in funding to develop documentary content that educates and encourages employers to hire veterans.

In total, the Colorado General Assembly introduced 623 bills during the 2021 legislative session and passed 502 of them. That’s a lot! Colorado Sun summarizes an additional 65 bills that impact our life in Colorado.